Converting a living room into a master bedroom for parents.

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We're thinking of converting our living room into a master bedroom suite for my in-laws. If we make that change, they would have more room which would have a positive impact on their health. We would also have more room. We would convert one of the bedrooms into a small living room for ourselves. It is out of the ordinary to make such a change. I would like to hear other points of view on this idea. Maybe you can share something we haven't thought of. First, here are some of the details....

We have a small, 2 bedroom house, our resources are limited & our living room is severely underutilized. My in laws are 80 & 85 respectively and are still fairly mobile and do not use a walker or wheelchair. However, the room they are in is very small with just enough space to walk around the bed. We are concerned about current and ongoing safety issues in that small room. We are also concerned about their Mental Health. They spend much of their time in that small room, despite our efforts to get them to come out and enjoy the living room more often. They say they have always spent a lot of time in their room so it is perfectly normal for them and not to worry about it. However, my father-in-law is dealing with some form of Dementia or cognitive decline which is in the process of being evaluated. Despite the fact that they have always spent a lot of time in their room we feel that his condition now requires that he doesn't stay cooped up in his small room.

This change would give them more space to enjoy their daily activities & safely move about. The room would be tastefully decorated & not only include a bed but also a sofa, tv, & small dining area. The room is very pretty with a fireplace and archways on each side. If we did this we would have doors made for the archways to complete the conversion to a private room. I've got the idea firmly in mind & with the creative changes we would make the room would look & feel like a bedroom with one exception. This room is behind the kitchen. The kitchen is the noisiest room in our house....pots...pans... clanging noises...chopping etc.

We must also consider our needs as their caregivers.
My husband and I are both sickly. I had brain surgery in 2010 and due to the effects of the brain tumor I have not fully recovered and deal with my own daily struggles because of it. I am no longer able to work. However, these circumstances do make it possible for me to be here with my mother and father-in-law and as time goes on to help them in whatever ways are needed. That said I do feel like I will need more space for my own health, privacy and sanity. My husband, who works but is also sickly would benefit greatly from this change as well.

My husband and I have looked at the pros and cons over and over again. There are definite positives and definite negatives. The kitchen noises is really the only place where I get hung up on this idea. Do the kitchen noises outweigh all the other benefits including safety, health & extra space for all of us?

What are your thoughts?


you and your husband are sickly and you are not able to work. Your inlaws will only need more and more care. You and your husband might need care. Why not assisted living for the inlaws and later you & your husband when you need it.
Thank you for your emphathic outlook toward the situation Kimber166. I will look into assisted living. However, we do want to keep them at home with us for as long as possible & right now they dont require physical care. They just crossed that borderline where we dont believe it's in their best interest to be on their own but still function well in various areas. So truly, despite our health issues, it's not something that is too much on us although I know we do have to plan for that time to come.
What happens if your fil with possible dementia starts wandering around at night into the kitchen to cook? You said the living room was right next to the kitchen.
You sound like you have a heart of gold, but, I think I would consider certain factors. Would your parents feel they had a enough privacy in this living room area? How much would it cost? Is it just a matter of moving furniture around? And can it switched back later pretty easily?

While it sounds like a great idea, I wonder about your dad's dementia. As that progresses, it makes it more and more difficult to be around him 24/7. There can be pacing, constant repeating of questions, sleep disorders, odd behavior, etc. Your mom may not be able to stay in the same room with him due to this. And if he's in a room near the kitchen, you have to be concerned with the stove, toaster, tv, and anything that he might be able to hurt himself with. Except for the early stages, you really have to supervise at all times.

Also, as they progress, due to your health, you may not be in a position to provide around the clock care for them in your home, especially if dementia is advancing. It can be pretty intense and stressful. Is there any way that they would want to go into Assisted Living? I might explore that idea, check out some places and at least give it some thought.

But, if their health is now stable, I don't see how trying your idea wouldn't be good. What do they say about it?

Staying, things to keep in mind - if you can make the change without spending your parents' money to improve the house - add doors for example - then for the period of time they can live with you it *could* make sense. If you use your parents' money to pay for improvements to your house, and your parents later need Medicaid for assisted living or nursing home, it could be a problem for them during the 5 year Medicaid look-back to qualify. If parents have bladder or bowel problems, that could be a difficulty for anyone in the kitchen eating nearby if they have a commode in their suite. If you have someone being evaluated for dementia, wait to make any changes until you have a diagnosis and ask the doctor office to write prescription for evaluation of the living area and proposed changes. Dementia patients DO NOT respond well to changes even ones that we think will make their lives better. My mother had a 3 bedroom house that she lived in alone and spent 90% of her time in 1 room.
Stayingfocused, I think at this point in time it would be ok to try to have your in-laws move to the living room.

Your Dad-in-laws dementia sounds familiar to my own Dad's... I didn't realize my Dad had dementia until many months later when sundowning took hold. But he was able to function in his senior living apartment. He did have a private morning caregiver which he could afford. Eventually he had to move to Memory Care almost a year later, as he was falling too much which happens with a lot of dementia patients.

There are a lot of options but your in-laws had saved for "rainy days". They could stay with you if they could afford a caregiver to come in to help. Or move to an Assisted Living facility that offers couple's apartments and later Memory Care.
This seems like a relatively small investment to make your home more livable for all concerned and I honestly can't see any negatives with your plan. How much crashing and banging of pots and pans can there possibly be when you are only cooking for four? Put in fire rated solid core doors such as would be used in apartment hall ways and they will cancel out a lot of that noise. The only downside I can think of would depend on whether you have considered their proximity to the bathroom and exits.
I think it's certainly worth a try, and if you don't have to invest much money to do it, it may work for a while. Make sure you do have that conversation with your inlaws, and that they understand that this is a short term solution to a long term issue. That at some point, you will need to reevaluate the situation and probably move them into Assisted living, due to the fact that their needs WILL continue to be addressed and changes made, and also your own health needs. It is after all, your home. It's very important for them to know that you can only do this as long as you are able, and not to the detriment to your own health and marriage!
There are only two things I would urge you to consider before doing this. The first is - it is common that any move, charge in living arrangements takes a toll on the elderly, even those without dementia. So, is this a move that is sustainable for a reasonable period of time? Or would it make more sense to move your folks to a retirement community where they could stay in place and services could be added as their needs increase? Which brings me to the second point - even if you expect this living arrangement to work for a period of time - it's important to know that dementia can go from zero to 60, and spin on a dime - all with a single fall.
You are clearly very kind and caring people. But I would vote no for this plan. What seems like a simple remodel can turn into a huge headache, especially in a small house with all of you living there.

Caring for elders with dementia will get exponentially more difficult. There is no way to predict how soon you FIL will become more than you can manage. I would hate to see anyone go to all this trouble and these folks end up in care in a few months.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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